Obama-McCain fourth debate…

The details of the fourth and last debate are shrouded in mystery, but I can reveal that the candidates’ campaigns have been discussing a short-list of dramatic debate formats. Let’s face it: the first three debates were lame. Worse than that, they failed to test the two candidates beyond the prepared scripts. Presidents need to be quick witted, able to handle pressure, knowledgeable, and resourceful. Hence, many novel and fanciful formats have been muted.

Here they are:

The Pub Crawl format
McCain and Obama go on a gigantic bender across Manhattan, starting at Sam and Joe’s Smokin’ Hot Pub on Fourth Street and ending somewhere in Harlem. The rules are simple: the candidates must choose in each pub from a whiskey (American of course), a Budweiser or Miller (not Light!), or a large Cosmopolitan cocktail (the Obama campaign insisted on this). Wine was dismissed as an option early on, because it was considered foppish and elitist and too likely to involve something foreign or French.

The candidates have to debate the issues amid the din and noise of a busy Manhattan bar, chatting to the locals and jostling for seats among the regulars. As the alcohol takes its toll, we’d really get to see them open up and tell it like it is. Finally, to end the night, the candidates would be filmed arriving home at 3am in the morning, roaring drunk and greeted by their wives.

The Survivor format
More like The Edge than a debate (McCain takes the role of Anthony Hopkins, while Obama is Alec Baldwin), this format involves the candidates crash-landing in a remote forest location in New Hampshire and being filmed as they struggle to reach home, while avoiding the young-man vs. old-man humiliations of relying on each other while inevitably clashing over women and status. This takes place over the last weekend in October, but there was some risk than one, or both, candidates would die. Considering this a pleasant potential outcome, the Palin supporters have been strongly urging McCain to take up the challenge. McCain, never one to shirk a return to survival mode, is said to favour this option too. Obama’s team have asked for strategically placed latte machines along the proposed route as a precondition of participating.

The Chess game format
Here, like Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal, the candidates play a game of symbolic chess against each other. Every move must be accompanied by a mini-play or pageant of the candidate’s choosing on the themes of Evil vs. Good, Greed vs. Selflessness, The Common Man vs. God, Hope and Despair, and The Ages of Man. A select audience of theatre critics, chess masters, and journalists scores the opponents on various factors, such as style, content, drama, acting, and chess ability. While the Obama team feels that he can win the chess game, they’re worried that the black and white pieces would be too racist in symbolism. McCain’s team have been tutoring him in controlling his anger long enough to actually finish a game without thrashing the pieces and board. He also has to understand that he can only make one move at a time…

The Foreign Leaders format
Let’s face it, the last three hosts have been feeble. To juice things up, the organisers will invite five mortal enemies to host the debate… Emboldened by the collapse of the American capitalist system, the premiers of Russia, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Spain (!!) square off against the two candidates. The five premiers would bombard the two with questions, water from water pistols, and rotten fruit and vegetables. The candidates would have to show considerable poise, strength and wit to overcome the constant bickering and attacks from all five veteran foreign leaders.

The Rapping Format
Obama’s team suggested this one: rapping out answers to difficult questions in rhyme and to music. Obama even composed some sample lyrics in anticipation of the debate:

You gotta tax the rich
‘Cos we’re in a stitch.
The banks ain’t legit
Put my budget in deficit.
Finance the war
That’s the score.
Change change change
It’s what we got to arrange…

McCain is a naturally angry rapper, so his team, despite the “coolness deficit”, are considering this option quite seriously.

I might be old
But he’s just cold.
No more tax
But can’t relax.
There’s a war to win
To leave is a sin.
I’m the Maverick
Solid as a brick.

And finally…the Risk format
Risk is the classic game of world domination and strategy. Here, the opponents face off over a large map of the world and try to out wit each other in dominating areas of the map. McCain, playing with the red team, starts with most of Central Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa, with Venezula thrown in. Obama starts with most of North America and Europe. The difference in this game is that the US armed forces actually participate, in real time, across the world, invading countries and bombing countries. Armageddon!

America Votes – The world cannot bear to watch

America is facing into a difficult time. They are mired down in two intractable wars in the Middle East, face the complete collapse of their banking system, and haven’t even begun yet to address global warming, the food crisis, peak oil, or adjust to the rise of China and India. But something lies at the heart of this mess. It is one word: stupidity.

A long-term culture of anti-intellectualism has pervaded American politics since at least 1980 and the rise of that gun-toting, straight-talking actor. It is as if intelligence and aloofness and being elite were necessarily bad qualities in a leader. Most other countries actively want and vote for intelligent, elite, educated leaders, who look like they know more than the average Joe. These qualities are seen as an essential characteristic of being a leader. And religion has laid its deathly, dumb, unreasoning hand across public debate too, reaching its nadir with the appointment of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate, to “energise the base”. Anyone who can embrace a politician tasked with solving America’s problems based on the fact that she is a “hockey mom” or believes in Adam and Eve, deserves to have their vote stripped from them.

There is the constant assumption, among popular America thinking, that the American electoral system is almost flawless, and is indeed the epitome of perfection. The assumption is that the original drafters of the American constitution were historically prescient to a degree that no other legislators in history, in any other comparable country, could hope to achieve. And that not only did they draft far-sighted rules and regulations that worked well in 1779, but that they continue to work well in 2008.

But the system is flawed. That a Presidential candidate can nominate a total unknown who then might slot into the second-highest position in the land is frightening enough. But that they stand one heart-beat from the Presidency is even more scary. All we can be sure of is that she won’t blink.

Democracy itself is not perfect. Churchill famously said of it, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” It is chastening to reflect that public reaction, most of it ill-informed, can decide whether a complex piece of financial rescue legislation can be defeated in the House or not.

When it comes to the Presidential election, how does the vote of some illiterate from a rural town in middle America with no exposure to economics or foreign policy equate to the vote of an educated, elite politically-savvy person from New York, say? It doesn’t. But the democratic principle says it is. And, yes, I accept that I’d rather live with democracy’s imperfections than a perfect totalitarianism. I am with Churchill on that point. But it still doesn’t make democracy right or not in need of remedial attention.

No doubt my notions will be considered elitist: it is because they are elitist. But maybe it is time for America to breathe in deeply, adopt some humility, and elect some elite, smart guy to run their country for a few years. Well, America?

Dinner with the McCains

Guest 1: Hi Senator McCain! How are you?
John McCain: Better than I was in 1968 down a rat-hole in Hanoi, I can tell you.
Guest: Oh, I guess so…
Pause
Guest 1: So, what’s for dinner?!
John McCain: Unlike my ass, which was for dinner in 1969, we have some prime beef today.
Mrs. McCain: John, can you slice the meat, honey?
John McCain: Dear, if I can survive for five years in a prisoner of war camp, I can sure slice this meat!
Mrs McCain: And please pass the salt while you’re over there.
McCain: I learned, the hard way, that salt is a luxury we can do without.
Guest: Where’s the bathroom?
McCain: Try pissing in your pants, like I did in Vietnam!
Mrs. McCain: John! Stop scaring the guests! It’s upstairs on the left, past the map of Vietnam, into the room marked “Hanoi Hilton”…
Guest 2: Ahem, so, how’s the campaign going then?
John McCain: What campaign? Do you mean the bombing campaign over Vietnam?
Guest: 2: Eh, no, I meant your Presidential Election campaign?
Very long pause…
McCain: Did I ever tell you about my time in Vietnam?

Chinese fake Olympics

In astonishing revelations today, it has been revealed that every country in the world is receiving different media reports, television pictures, and images from the Beijing Olympics. The distorted reports are targeting different markets with different results, thus making a mockery of the actual results.

In the USA, they have been convinced that Michael Phelps, for example, has secured several gold medals and world records. In fact, his performances were filmed over several months and stitched together into an incredible montage of unlikely success. But only in the United States, or in countries with no vested interest in swimming, is Phelps a hero. In downtown Sydney, they are celebrating the Australian male swimmers, who remarkably held-off the great Phelps in every event. Similarly, in Togo, while they celebrate their first Olympic medal ever, a bronze in kayaking, Somalia, Mozambique, and Senegal were all celebrating the exact same triumph for the same event, thanks to digital wizardry.
 
“We just altered the jersey of the winning competitor digitally and in real time,” stated Olympic organiser Lei Ping. “It was very easy to do in an obscure sport like white-water kayaking. Equally, can anybody recognise individual swimmers from 30 metres away? I don’t think so.”

Justifying the subterfuge, Mr. Ping added, “For the enhancement of the great Chinese country, it behoves us to bestow joy and great celebrations on as many competing countries as possible. It is all in the desire to please and host a successful Olympics.”

Quite how they will handle the 100m sprinting is debatable, but in leaks to this blogger it has been revealed that there will be at least five gold medal winners, six silvers, and up to a dozen bronzes. (However, the GB runner will come in a galant seventh, which is all the nation expects.) How is this to be accomplished? Simple. Digitally-enhanced images can be skillfully developed for each individual runner in advance. The real race is run, but the images and results are manipulated on the fly by software and it all happens too quickly for anybody to notice. The results are then distributed to the target audiences. In Asia, a blindingly fast Saudi Arabian runner steals a bronze, in South America two Brazilians get medals, while in the USA market, nothing less than a full haul of three medals will suffice. When asked whether the ruse will be discovered, the organisers remained non-plussed. “How often will Americans watch anything other than NBC for their Olympic coverage? How closely will they scrutinise the foreign media? And, how interested are NBC in telling them the disappointing news, if a Jamaican actually wins the race?”, said a spokesman.

Other sports are beginning to take an interest. Fifa President Sepp Blatter, bemoaning soccer’s inability to award more than one World Cup every four years, and generally only to Italy, Brazil, or France, has stated his intention of having multiple winners of the next tournament. In 2010, there will be four winners, one each from Africa, Europe, South America, and Asia. By 2018, the intention is to convince a world audience that their country, and their country only, won the World Cup. Sponsors are delighted, because audiences will be boosted world-wide. Meanwhile, coaches get to keep their jobs, players get feted like heroes everywhere they go, and clubs get to plug their players across the world. Audiences will doubtless suspect something is up when their Brazilian neighbour celebrates equally as hard as his Italian or Dutch neighbours, but who’ll be bothered to notice when the whole world is happy?

Fears for reporter’s job after immense maths gaffe

http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mhqlmheycwoj/

“Fears for economy as one in five fail maths” screamed the ORIGINAL headline. 

Now, after some hasty revision, the headline reads “Fears for economy as more pupils fail maths”. Ahem.

In the original article, now revised to spare blushes, the reported just added (doh!) 4.5% to 12.3% and 5.7% to get 22.5%. It seemed like a satisfyingly large figure and just calls out for a major, hyper-ventilating headline that threatens world destruction and economic calamity. Quite aside from getting the figures completely wrong, the reporter drew utterly unsubstantiated conclusions from sparse data. How will a bunch of 17 and 18 year old failing in maths threaten the economy? Okay, he would argue that they’ll fail to take up courses requiring maths, like engineering and computer science. But, surely there are plenty of jobs left in journalism that quite obviously do not require the slightest grasp of mathematics!

China’s critics lack bite

Chinese people have a tradition of politeness, especially towards their elders or social superiors. It is very hard for them to criticise or say anything bad at all about the authorities. I just wish these critics of China would be more direct, less circumspect, and just come out and say what they’re thinking. There is way too much pussy-footing around the important issues…Here’s an example of politically-correct language and politeness gone to the extreme:

The ceremony [Opening Ceremony of Olympics] has also been strongly criticised by architect Ai Weiwei, who helped design the Bird’s Nest stadium.

Writing on his blog, Mr Ai described the ceremony as “a recycling of the rubbish of fake classical culture tradition; a sacrilegious visual garbage dump and an insult to the spirit of liberty; low class sound play that’s just noise pollution”.

He was directly critical of China’s ruling communist party, characterising the ceremony as “a showcase of the reincarnation of the Marxist imperialism; the ultimate paragon of an all embracing culture of fascist totalitarianism; an encyclopaedia that encompasses total defeat in intellectual spirit.”

Really My Ai, just come out and say what you are thinking! Stop evading the critical issues of the day! I mean, that phrase “all embracing culture of facist totalitarianism”, could you get more circumspect!?! Huh!

2010: A retrospective on the Georgian-Russian wars of 2008

In mid 2008, Georgia attacked the semi-autonomous area of South Ossetia in order to reclaim the rogue province for itself. Russia invaded South Ossetia, from North Ossetia, in order to defend the Russian minorities. The Ossetians declared independence, except for the small region of South Mariesbad, where a small majority of South Ossetians of Georgian descent declared their wish to remain in the motherland. But the tiny town of Gribli, set in the idlyic heart of South Mariesbad, tried forcing its way back into the South Ossetian embrace, rushed to declare their independence in turn from South Mariesbad. Not to be outdone, the family of Mr. and Mrs. Georgi Grabula declared their house on the main street of Gribli to be still within the territory of Georgia.

Meanwhile, the Abkhazians, sensing a weakness in Georgia, invaded the north west area of Georgia to expand their territory. Georgia, sensing that other’s sensed its weakness, ordered an attack on Azerbaijan, to support the Armenian resistance movement in Nagorno-Karabakh, in a show of strength. The Armenians, sensing that Azerbaijan would sense their weakness if they accepted support from Georgia, decided to support the Azerbaijani’s. The Georgian president called the Armenian’s a smelly race of ungrateful sheep shaggers. The Armenian’s thanked the president for his gracious compliments.

President Putin flew straight to the region, landing in the Georgian capital Tblisi. After a short conversation with the Georgian authorities, his aides realised they had made a terrible blunder and flew out again, very quickly. Declaring himself totally confused, Bush said the US would wait to see who won the war before commenting. The UN sent peacekeepers to the region, but they got lost in the confusion. Bob Geldolf held a “Find the Missing Peacekeepers” multinational pop concert. Eventually they were found picking on some stray sheep herders in the highlands of North Ossetia, where after a couple of years they set up their independent homeland of Upper Ossetia.

And so it goes on…

What is it with beards?

I just couldn’t but help notice the increasing use of beards to hide all manner of evil-doers. From dictators, to mass-murderers, to philandering priests, and then…eh, God.

A whole new social trend

There’s this guy in South Korea, only identified as “Park”, who sued his ex-girlfriend for the return of money he spent on dating her. He managed to squeeze a signed promise from her, after they broke up, that she would repay the money, amounting to $9,615. He won his case, at first, in a lower court, but had it overturned by a higher court.

I can see this setting a whole new social trend.

I mean, those drinks I bought my work colleagues last week was purely to make friends and influence people. If I lose my job next week, I’ll want it all back. I have the receipts to prove it. And that time I gave my next door neighbour a lift to work…well, as soon as he moves out of the neighbourhood, I’ll present him with a bill. After all, I was only doing it for good neighbourly relations, and if he moves on, where’s the value in that? And that reminds me of the game of bowling I payed for when my Canadian cousins visited a few weeks back. Now that they’ve decided to decamp back home, what good was that social investment I made? I want the money back. I should have presented them the bill before I left.

Bringing this to its logical conclusion, I can see a new web business setting up, like those sites that count your carbon footprint for you, this would count your “social footprint”. You’d get to pay for friends and socialising and get “social credits” in return. Let’s say I treat my friends to a nicely cooked meal. That would earn me enough social credits to dump toxic waste in some third world country, say. Hmmmm…this could work!

The Apprentice – lying on a CV

I was watching The Apprentice on BBC1 last night (the English version). It was the interview stage, where the five remaining candidates get grilled by some of Alan Sugar’s (pronounced ‘suraluhn’) groupies. Anyway, one candidate, Lee, had claimed on his CV that he spent two years studying at a university. The interviewer asked him, how long did you spend at university? He said, two years. He asked him again, calmly. He repeated the claim. Then came the bombshell. The interviewer had gone to the trouble of requesting confirmation from the college. In fact, as was verified by a fax from the college, he had spent no more than four months there and had to drop out because he failed to pass exams! When this was put to Lee, he feebly said something along the lines of, oh, I must have spent four months there then, mustn’t I? The interviewer pressed him on it: was it four months or two years? He said, it must be four months if you say it is. Unimpressed, the interviewer stopped himself calling him a liar, but wasn’t far off it.

My first thought was: what a lying little rat. He compounded his problem by not admitting to it straight out. He tried squirming out of it by opening to the suggestion that he had in fact made an innocent mistake. It wasn’t: it was a lie. Then he finally admitted to elaborating his CV because he was embarrassed about his lack of educational achievements. Quite!

When Suraluhn heard about all this, he was of course a little disappointed. But nothing more! He didn’t fire him! He left him stay on for the final week. Talk about rewarding bad behaviour.

Either I am going senile, or has lying somehow become de rigeur among certain types of person? I mean, one gimp on the panel suggested that “we all lie on our CVs”! Always the last refuge of the miscreant is to say, well everybody else does it.

I’m appalled about this for three reasons. First, that a lie on a CV about something as basic as a university education is considered almost trivial. Second, that other people actually go to university, pass exams, and work hard for knowledge and qualifications. Then they get trumpted by this moronic, egotistical ass who thinks he has a right to make extravagant claims on his own CV. As if the wanting of something badly enough (e.g. a job with Alan Sugar) justifies almost anything. Third, it is totally stupid to lie this way on a CV which is going to be broadcast on national television. If the interviewer hadn’t picked up on it, then someone else probably would, possibly from a tabloid or an investigative blogger.

The best line was kept by a comedian on the follow-up programme. If you’re going to lie about university, at least claim you went to Cambridge or Oxford! Duh!

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